Story / Luci Turner
Photos / Catie Laffoon
For 19-year-old Kailee Morgue, casting sonic spells across a witchy-pop soundscape is second nature. Weaving her barbed lyricism and delicate delivery, the green-haired, tattooed songstress imagines worlds within songs that are equal parts familiar and bound in sonic mysticism. The Los Angelian-via-Phoenix became a (literal) overnight sensation when, less than two years ago, she posted a video of herself online singing what would become her breakout hit, “Medusa,” and gathered more than 100,000 likes. Following a deal with Republic Records, she hit the studio to write and record her debut album with producer CJ Baran. Now, with the release of her latest pop hit, “F**k You,” Kailee Morgue’s enchantments prove intoxicating as she makes her mark on the world of dark indie pop.
Less than two years ago, you found the beat for what became your breakout song, “Medusa,” on YouTube, posted it online, and got over 100,000 likes in one night. Did you have any idea that it would lead to a record deal with Republic Records, recording your first major label debut with CJ Baran and gigs at festivals like Outside Lands and Bumbershoot?
It’s funny because when I posted that video, it was me kind of experimenting with a new style of music. I didn’t really know if people would like it or respond the way they did, so you could say I was super, super surprised! I definitely could not have predicted what has transpired, it’s pretty surreal.
Why do you think so many people connected so quickly with your music?
I honestly couldn’t pin it down to one thing, but I think there’s a world between happy and sad that my music lives within, and that seems to resonate with people. Also, I think there’s something real about seeing someone recording/writing in their bedroom that people connected with.
Your latest single, “F**k You,” is obviously written from a very personal place, but at the same time, the theme is universal. Has the response from listeners been surprising, or did you know when you were writing it that it would resonate with so many?
I wrote “F**k You” fairly quick because it was so emotionally driven, so I don’t think I even had time to think about what kind of response it would have. It was instinctual and reactionary to the moment, really unfiltered and raw. I do think though that everyone needs one of these fuck you songs to listen to and boost their confidence sometimes!
One of the lines in “F**k You” says, “You’re only as good as you are when you are with me / So I hope you know better, know better than to leave.” That kind of mindset — that you’ll never do more or be better without that person in your life — has kept so many people in situations they really shouldn’t be in. If you could tell someone in that kind of relationship one thing, what would it be?
Part of being in a toxic relationship is not knowing just how bad it really is. I think all you can do as an outsider is try to let someone in one of those relationships know that they have the potential to be loved so much more than they even know. The “love” they’re receiving is only a fraction of what they deserve.
You have to be brave to walk away from a situation like the one in “F**k You,” but you’ve also got to be brave to write it down, sing it, and share it with the world. What gave you the strength and the belief in yourself to put yourself out there and be vulnerable?
From day one, music has always been more conversational to me. I’ve never been all that great at communicating how I feel to other people, so it tends to show more in my art and music. So in a way, this was me knowing I needed to talk about this situation and doing it the best way I knew how.
At 19 years old, you’ve already taken some huge steps in your career. What has been the most challenging part of creating your own sound and sharing your story?
I think the most challenging part of this journey so far is being at this “young adult” phase while trying to find my sound and image. Right now, I’m growing and becoming who I am and sort of struggling with the fact that the things I’m going through aren’t the same for other people my age.
What do you hope you’ve accomplished two years from now?
I’d definitely want to have a couple records out, I can’t even express how excited I am to have more music out. Of course, I also want to be touring, doing bigger shows and connecting with more people. Exploring my creativity takes time, and I hope in two years I’ll have found a number of different ways to embody a message or emotion. It starts with music for me but I could see my pursuit of taking various creative forms over time.
If you could make sure fans take one thing away from your music, what would it be?
Whether the initial reaction to one of my songs is with happiness, sadness, anger, etc., I would just want them to feel some sort of emotional relief. I deeply connect with music emotionally, and feeling a sense of release through a song is just amazing.
You’re nearing the release of your first full-length album and have recently made your debut in New York City, at Baby’s All Right. What’s next?
There’s definitely lots of music being made, which I am so, so excited to share. I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different sounds/genres that are a bit different from my EP! Of course, there will more live shows, which I can’t wait for to meet more lovely people!
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